Meet Chef India Johnson – The Atlanta Voice

Meet Chef India Johnson this Thursday, February 24th inside the Epicurean in Midtown at 7:00 PM to experience some unique dish pairings with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Chef Johnson shares more about her background and love for food and Southern hospitality. You can purchase your ticket to this charity event that will benefit the Shular Institute here

Dawn: Do you have a restaurant? And what type of Chef are you?”

Chef India:  I am a local private chef. I specialize in doing events and working with brands. So I’m not a restaurant chef, but I do do a lot of events here in the city.

Dawn: Let’s talk about how long you’ve been a chef? You explained to me your journey. Was it something that you will seek him out to do? Or was it something that you just fell in love with? kind of explain that? Yeah,

Chef India: Absolutely! So my journey is pretty interesting. I started out as a young adult in corporate America, and just didn’t love that. But I come from a family of cooks and bakers, my dad is actually a chef. So just kind of growing up around food. I eventually just started cooking just naturally for friends and family. And people thought I was a great cook. So you know, I went through college just like everybody else. And then I was just like, okay, you know, I’m interested in cooking should I go to culinary school. And once I realized that I didn’t really want to pay. Like, I don’t want to start all over from scratch with like, just like tuition and stuff with going to school. I basically just kind of befriended Some chefs and cooks in the industry, local restaurants and started with working with other chefs just like going to events just to kind of see how we’ve been working on then initially started doing my own events. But career wise, as far as Culinary and Hospitality. 

I actually started out as a winemaker for my dad, though, is a hobbyist where he makes wine out of everything. And I kind of grew up around that as well. And I fell in love with wine. When I was in corporate America, I expected to travel a lot. And I used to go to different cities. And I spent a lot of time in California, just visiting wineries and learning how the industry worked. And my ultimate goal initially was to have my own winery facility.

But in the south, especially in the early 2000s, there’s like a lot of red tape with alcohol and liquor licenses and stuff like I came to, well, I spent some time in Florida, but came back to Atlanta, what’s calling us here? Florida came back in like 2009. And with the idea that I was going to open up a concept like that and just didn’t work. You know, I work with a consulting company, and they were just like, if you want to do something like this, it’s going to take a lot of cutting of red tape and like a million dollars. And I was like, ‘oh, okay, well, I don’t have that. So let’s see what else I can do.’

And then I just really started doing food based events full time in 2010. Since then until now, either I have worked with other chefs helping out on their events, then getting some popularity, especially since social media has grown. But you know, just popularity has grown just by utilizing social media and being able to put my food out there. So people tend to contact me for stuff all the time. And that’s really how my career has flourished over the last several years.

Dawn: “Where did you go to school? Did you do formal training for this?”

Chef India: So my education is interesting. Someone was like from New York. And then I spent like, for my teenage years in the Carolinas with my mom’s side of the family for himself, actually graduated high school in Asheville, North Carolina, which is like three hours here from Atlanta. And then, you know, just really not being a native from the Carolinas and trying to see what I wanted to do next. And as a young adult, I knew several people that I’m from North Carolina, I’ve migrated down to Atlanta, and had visited a few times. It’s like, okay, I’ll go school down there. And so, trying to figure out, you know, where I wanted to go to school, I got accepted to many schools, I mean, every school here in Atlanta, you name it. You know, Spelman to me, I got accepted to but I just really wasn’t like a school person. Like actually, I hated school. And the idea of going to college and just like really not knowing what I wanted to do, I just like just wasn’t with that. 

And so I took some time off, got a regular job, and then I eventually went to dry and then finished out in the smaller technology school, but I have a computer, network technology degree that I have never used. Once I’ve got that and kind of went into the workforce I don’t know. I mean, I just started playing around with things like cooking and stuff at home. Like, I don’t have a formal education. I’m really naturally great at it. And once I started working with other chefs, it was kind of like a no-brainer for me. I knew I was capable of working in this industry. And I’ve been doing it since 2010.

Dawn: “So how did you get selected to be a part of this event?”

Chef India: So Josh reached out to me. You know, the scent industry in Atlanta is pretty interesting. A lot of chefs here are doing a lot of different things. And we all tend to follow each other online social media wise. So I have been following him for a while. And, you know, I’m familiar with the work that he’s done. And, you know, he’s, he does a lot with events. And he obviously follows me as well. So, you know, we all support each other, you know, high fives when we see each other doing great work. And, you know, I guess I was just a chef he always wanted to work with so when this event came about, he reached out to me via social, we’ve talked about it, he asked me if I was interested in and I said, ‘Hey, this is kind of right up my alley, you know, working with alcohol brands, something I’m very familiar with.’ I used to be the resident chef for a Martell Cognac project for two years. Yeah, well, they had a property here where they did private events, like every week.

Dawn: “The loft? Yes, I’ve been to a couple of those events. That was amazing!”

Chef India: yeah, fair, that that will never come back. That was pretty. It was a good time. During that time, you know, with events and stuff that we were doing. So it really put me you know, out there in front of people kind of showcasing what I could do food wise and working with Martel. That was pretty cool. So since then, I’ve worked with Citroen glossier. Alcohol brands are always looking for unique events and which require food. So I tend to get those calls when those events are being planned for recently, somewhere with Bacardi. So this was a no brainer with it being Woodford to be a part of this and be like, okay, yeah, I could definitely do that.

Question- “What’s your specialty? What type of foods do you focus on? What’s your thing?”

Chef India: Yeah, so my thing is, is really not having a thing. I can cook whatever. I’m originally from New York. My dad’s from Trinidad and my mom is from down south. My thing is usually like a Southern and Caribbean mix. So it’s usually a fusion, like the thing I’m doing is a curry dish for this event. I’m fusing a lot of my Southern and my Caribbean roots together. When it comes down to my career, or my thing, it could vary like it just depends. I’m very like, Okay, what’s the thing we’re going for when it comes to like, my clients and people that I’m working with on the type of food that they want. I’m pretty custom when it comes to stuff like that. 

I’m very creative and artistic. People tend to call me avant-garde. I like to do different things with ingredients that people are familiar with. You know, I’m going for flavor and color. I’m going for texture. I’m not one of those chefs that make things really pretty, it just doesn’t taste great. So I try to find a balance between all those things, but I love everything. I mean, I love Asian cuisine. I love pastas. I love seafood, but when it comes down to liking the events that I do for myself, and I really want to showcase my skills or talent, it’s usually a mix between African American and Caribbean cuisine.

Question- “Can you share a little bit of what you’re probably going to cook at this event? Or is that going be a tight top secret?”

Chef India: I can tell you what I am making because that’s not top secret to me. This event is called “Made with Love &  Soul’, And when we first met with Josh and the other chefs, he kind of assigned us a category. 

My category is fly which means chicken or anything that has wings. I’m a big fan of duck, people really sleep on duck a lot, because, you know, either they never had it or if they had, it just wasn’t prepared to their liking. I like cooking duck for people that don’t get to experience it a lot, because it can be really good if you cook it well. And so with getting that category, I decided to go with duck. And from there, it’s like, okay, how can I then kind of create a dish that has to be small, because we’re going for like, two, three ounces. So we’ll try something at each station, but it’ll still be filling. Coming up with something that I could just like, again, let what I do kind of shine, which is kind of like African American Caribbean cuisine. 

So my parents, my dad’s from Trinidad, and so it is true that curry duck is actually like a specialty. It’s a dish that is made for celebrations and so much getting married or something big is happening amongst family. They’ll make curry duck. It’s a process. It’s a lot. It’s like a stew-ish type dish. I wanted to do something kind of modern where I’m taking those flavors like curry and duck but doing it a different way. 

So I’m actually going to make a Sufi duck breast with curry, which is like a custom curry seasoning that I’m making. And then another popular thing over there in Trinidad is they eat dhal which is like yellow split peas in a rice mix. Yeah, so dhal rice. Something like a curry duck breast over like, dhal grits. Yeah with some things on top you know, some added flavors and stuff. So I’m really excited. For me when I think of stuff it’s usually something that I’ve never made before. And I’ve never made curry duck this way. 

So, for me, it’s like a creative process coming up with something that’s like, oh, okay, that sounds cool. In my head, I can envision it, and then like, doing it in a way that when people taste it, it’s like, okay, you know, I didn’t miss the mark. I got it. Like it’s so just got into that creative process it is pretty exciting every time I do it. So I’m excited about this event and kind of showcasing that addition seeing how people feel about

Question- How can people book you or find you on social media?

Chef India: Yeah, so I’m pretty easy to find. My Instagram is You can go to my website Instagram is primarily where people find me and I engage with people in regards to either working with me or if you really want to see my food style. 

Instagram is what I use as my portfolio and that’s where people can find me the most. I also have my own sauce brand called Sauce Queen. So if you’re interested in condiments, I have a honey hot sauce right now that I am actively selling on

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